Dan's Dugout: Philly Rise is Huge Surprise • Latino Sports

Baseball

Dan’s Dugout: Philly Rise is Huge Surprise

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PHILADELPHIA – Who woulda thunk it?

The much-maligned Tampa Bay Rays went into the next-to-last day of April with eight wins in a row.

The over-hyped Washington Nationals were looking up from the basement of the National League East.

And the Philadelphia Phillies began the last Sunday of the month on a 15-6 tear that made them the hottest team in the majors over the last three weeks.

Of all the April surprises, Philadelphia’s seems most improbable.

Veteran righthander Jake Arrieta is flawless with the Phillies

A rebuilding team that finished dead last a year ago, the Phils raised eyebrows when they lavished free-agent dollars on Jake Arrieta and Carlos Santana, veterans without much of a market.

Santana, formerly the first baseman for the Cleveland Indians, has struggled against National League pitching, though Arrieta seems to have recaptured the Cy Young form he showed as the rotation leader for the Chicago Cubs.

Though the Phils have averaged 5.9 runs per game during their 21-game hot streak, three of the eight position players in their April 29 lineup against the Atlanta Braves entered with their averages below the Mendoza Line.

Santana was at .165, Aaron Altherr at .167, and Andrew Knapp at .182.

On the plus side, No. 3 hitter Odubel Herrera walked in the first inning Sunday to extend to 29 his streak for consecutive games in which he reached base.

This is the same Phillies team that struggled out of the gate, dropping four of their first five and convincing critics that making a manager out of the inexperienced Gabe Kapler was a bad idea.

Kapler did make some blunders, including calling for a relief pitcher when no one was warming up, but has recovered nicely. Yet his Phils were within striking distance of tying the 2011 team for most wins in April (18).

With the exception of leadoff man Cesar Hernandez and sluggers Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins, the offense is still spotty. But a bullpen once known as The Arson Squad has blossomed, stranding 28 of its first 38 inherited runners.

The Phils took a hit over the weekend when slick-fielding shortstop J.P. Crawford went on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right forearm. He suffered the injury Saturday while making a long, awkward throw on a deep-in-the-hole ball that few other shortstops coud corral.

Hoskins, who broke in with a bang last summer, remains the leading local hero. Entering the April 29 game against Atlanta, the cleanup man was hitting .333 and a league-best on-base percentage of .486.

Rhys Hoskins remains a hot hitter for Philadelphia

He’ll get better support once Santana remembers how to hit and rookie Scott Kingery gains experience.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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